by Amy Patenaude
There are lots of mountain lists and right here in New Hampshire we have many mountain lists. Some lists have been around a long time and are well known, while others are more obscure and a few are gaining in notoriety. Some list keepers will reward a hiker with a unique path for completing their list.
Around here most will agree that the most popular patch to be earned is given by the Appalachian Mountain Club for completing their New Hampshire Four Thousand Footer list—48 mountains all over the elevation of 4,000 feet. There is also special recognition for completing the list by summiting the peaks during the winter.
Closer to home The Belknap County Sportsmen’s Association sponsors The Belknap Range Hiker patch that is earned by hiking the 12 mountains that make up the Belknap Range. The Belknap Range Redliner patch, sponsored by the Belknap Range Trail Tenders (BRATTS.org), can be earned for hiking every trail in the Belknap Range and proceeds support their trail work.
The New Hampshire Division of Forest and Lands operates 15 fire lookout towers and offers the Fire Lookout Tower Quest patch that can be earned by visiting a minimum of 5 of their 15 towers.
You can discover more New Hampshire hiking lists that are managed by an advisory board made of up of hikers at www.48×12.com. The 48×12 is shorthand for the Grid—summiting each four thousand footer in every month! These are all fun hiking games/accomplishments.
One list at 48×12.com my friend Danielle is working hard to check off every peak that is on it is the entire New Hampshire Fire Tower list. This list was inspired by Iris Baird’s fire tower research and data collection. This list contains 93 fire towers proposed, past and present lookout towers.
Unlike the above lists that I have mentioned, this list requires visiting abandoned fire towers and sites where few if any artifacts remain and that have no trails to their sites but require bushwhacking; a swell way of saying you must find your way through the woods on your own.
I completed this fire tower list last winter; hiking many of these peaks with my friends Bryan and Becca. I am working on a different list right now, but Danielle and I decided to join forces to hike to these out of the way places. A fire tower here, a bushwhack peak there and it all adds up. Her list is getting very small. We’re having a lot of fun.
The Signal Mountain Fire Tower is still standing but it has been inactive since 1980. Signal Mountain is located in Millsfield, NH. We drove through Errol and of course we stopped by LL Cote Sports Center were you can get groceries and gas and buy everything from a sleeping bag to a shotgun.
From Route 26 we headed south on Signal Mountain Road for about 3 miles before parking at an old log landing on left. We were cautious while driving, the road is multi-use by ATV’s and logging operations are active in the area.
The foggy morning was clearing up and as we were gearing up to hike the clouds lifted off the pointy summit of Signal Mountain. I had hiked this with Bryan about a year ago or so and it all looked the same as I remembered.
Danielle pulled out her map and she told me her plan and I followed her up an old skidder road across the logging cut. This was about the same way as I remembered hiking to reach the old road.
The old road has seen some ATV use, but not recently, and we had no idea how they accessed it.
We ignored some old skid roads that went straight up the mountain and we continued winding around the mountain as we climbed. Higher up, we came to a fork and I recalled going to the right but she wanted to go to the left so we did. Shortly after we intersected with a newer road that is being used by tractors or ATVs. This led us straight to the tower. We hiked about 1.7 miles and climbed almost a thousand feet to reach the tree covered summit.
The tower has seen better days. There are steps missing on the stairway, windows are boarded up or missing and it could use a paint job. But there is a lot of new equipment attached to the tower and I believe it is used for tracking moose. For over 35 years this tower has been unattended.
Even if we were to have attempted to climb the tower there were no views to be had because the clouds were just barely above our heads. We poked around the summit and found parts to an old wood stove and some wire.
We decided to return the same way since the footing was good and I recalled the other fork being ledgy and slippery. Lower down in the cut area we took a different skid road that ended up being not quite as nice but it delivered us back to the car just the same.
After our morning hike we decided to go just down the road a little further and bushwhack to another 2,000 footer trail-less peak. Happily, the sun decided to come out even though the weather forecast called for rain.
We jumped a moose and enjoyed wonderful views of Signal Mountain.
Amy Patenaude is an avid skier/outdoor enthusiast from Henniker, N.H. Readers are welcome to send comments or suggestions to her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.